BOWDOIN — A Donald Trump campaign sign in Bowdoin was destroyed this week after it was run over by a car — an act that the property owner believes was premeditated. 

John Pride, a homeowner in Bowdoin, said the 4-by-8 foot Trump sign was placed on his land at the corner of Route 201 and Route 125 on Sunday. 

By Monday, the sign had been knocked over, but Pride said he and Peter Lewis, chairman of the Bowdoinham Board of Selectmen and a candidate for the State House of Representative District 55 seat, wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt and blamed the wind. They reinforced the sign and drove posts 18 inches into the ground to make sure it would stay put. 

The next morning, the sign was in pieces, with blue paint on the 2x4s and tire tracks in the ground. 

A Trump sign in Bowdoin was destroyed after it was hit by a car. Courtesy of Peter Lewis

Pride called the act, which he believes had to be intentional, “disgusting,” “immature” and “irresponsible.” He has since put the sign back together and screwed it to his fence. 

Peter “Tony” Lewis, chairman of the Bowdoinham Board of Selectmen and a candidate for the State House of Representative District 55 seat, called the Sagadahoc Sheriff’s Office after speaking with Pride on Wednesday. An officer investigated, but so far there have been no charges brought forward. 

In a report, Cpl. Aaron Skolfield said he “checked in on one weak lead as to who may have been involved and quickly eliminated that individual.” 

Pride said the vandalism started just days after he asked a resident to remove democratic signs from public property in front of his home. The person “got snotty with me” and refused, he said, so he asked for her address so he could put conservative signs in front of her house. 

He took the signs down and put them in his garage, something he contends is within his rights as a taxpayer.

“I don’t have to have signs in front of my property that don’t reflect my beliefs,” he said. “It’s technically town property but it’s clearly in front of property that I own.” 

He said his Trump sign was run over shortly after. 

“I did the right thing” by calling and asking them to remove the signs and then picking them up without destroying them, he added. “To become belligerent and destructive… I don’t drive around driving signs over signs I don’t like.”

This is not the first time a campaign symbol has been targeted in the area. 

Last month, a life-sized donkey sculpture was set ablaze in Bowdoinham just one week after it was finished by artist Doug Chess, who worked on it for two years. No charges have been issued, and the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office is assisting the state fire marshal’s office in an investigation. Local Democrats believe the crime was politically motivated.   

Lewis, running for the seat currently held by Democrat Seth Berry, said the continued destruction of property in the district is “ridiculous.” House District 55 consists of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, most of Richmond and Perkins Island Township.

The issue goes beyond this election. In 2018, Berry estimated he lost about 200 signs, and his opponent, Guy Lebida, said he had similar issues. The police said at the time that the penalty for damaging or destroying political signs is a $250 fine.

“This isn’t a partisan thing,” Lewis said. “This is ridiculous behavior on both sides of the aisle that needs to stop.” 

Lewis announced Thursday that he is offering a $1,500 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the “arsonist who committed this crime.” 

“We all have different points of view, but we live together,” he said. “It’s ridiculous that there’s this much hate going on out there.” 

Berry, who is running for reelection, agreed.

Any kind of vandalism, whether it’s arson, theft or destruction of property, “feels like a violation,” he said. “It feels like their property, their expression of their own political preference has been trampled on. That’s a terrible feeling.”

“I strongly condemn any kind of vandalism or stealing of signs by either side in any election,” he added. “It is fundamentally an infringement on our freedom of expression.”

 

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